Outdoor science: rock climbing edition

Part of my PhD was funded by the UA/NASA Space Grant to pilot and kickstart what became the UA Science Sky School. Our overnight programs, based at an observatory at the summit of Mt. Lemmon in the Catalina Mountains, allow K-12 classes to more deeply explore the world around them using the scientific method. Although I graduated and left Tucson two years ago, I continue to celebrate Sky School’s successes and community. This week, I am back in Tucson for a visit, and looking forward to spending some time at Sky School.

At the March For Science Denver a week ago with another inaugural SkySchool instructor, Kirsten Neff. I’m wearing a superhero cape proclaiming my science superhero to be Sara Plummer Lemmon, the botanist and adventurer for whom Mt. Lemmon is named, in honor of her ascent over 100 years ago.

Mt. Lemmon is a beloved place for more than the observatory, though: there are over 2,000 rock climbing routes established on crags along the 30 mile Catalina Sky Highway that leads to the summit observatory. Since I developed into a regular climber in Tucson, Mt. Lemmon is my rock climbing home.

I have idly daydreamed about combining a Sky School type program with a climbing expedition for years now: outdoor science and engineering of technical skills and the natural world. You could study the mechanical physics of balancing yourself on a small hold or equalizing your anchor points for safety, as well as the geology of the rock quality and how the heck tiny plants are growing in cracks in the rock hundreds of feet off the ground.

So imagine my excitement to see a program launching to do just that up in Colorado! 9 high school girls will have the opportunity to spend 12 days with scientists and climbing guides in the first Girls On Rock expedition. I have been watching announcements of Inspiring Girls growing and expanding as an organization, and am stoked to see this newest program come together.

They want to offer this program free of charge to girls flying in from anywhere in the country!

So if you’re a teenage girl – get ready to apply.

If you know a teenage girl – encourage her to apply.

And if you want to see this program succeed and grow – donate to make this first run possible. I just did.